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Artistic messes turn into new business

Messes are encouraged at Christine Melby's house.

So it was only natural that when Melby sought to start her own business, messes and kids were part of the equation.

Melby has started "Messes & Masterpieces," a non-profit educational organization that conducts creative art classes for kids and adults.

The organization, which is governed by a nine-member volunteer Board of Directors, is partnering with New Richmond Community Education to offer painting, sculpture and creative building classes locally.

"I've been doing fun things like this with my kids for a long time," Melby said. "We'd have parties where we would create things, and people would always tell me I should do this as a business."

She eventually took action on the suggestion.

"I was looking for something to do while my kids are in school," she explained.

Melby, who helped start a Montessori school in New Richmond several years ago, said she's always been a proponent of hands-on educational opportunities for children.

"Experiential learning is one of the best ways to learn," she said. "And children learn to express themselves through art. It's really important."

Part of the equation is allowing kids to make a big mess when they're creating a piece of art. Melby said her classes allow her students to go wild, without worrying parents about the clean-up afterwards.

"Some people feel they can't do this because it's too messy," she said, "or they don't have the energy or they don't have the space. We provide the cover-ups for the kids and the clean-up."

Having an outlet for artistic expression is a good addition to the community, Melby said, as many kids already are involved in sports, music and dance programs.

"But there's not an art forum, except for what's done in the schools," she said. "Children need a more well-rounded life."

In the "Messes & Masterpieces" classes, Melby uses a variety of materials to inspire students.

Besides the obvious paint and canvas, Melby has storage bins filled with recycled materials that can be used in the creative art projects.

Wood, hinges, rubber hoses, fabric, buttons, keys, beads, springs, PVC pipe and CDs are among the items used in the classes.

"It allows the kids to explore new techniques and new materials in their art," she said.

"Messes & Masterpieces" teachers don't show their students an example of an art project to copy. They leave the final product up to the artist, Melby said.

"Whatever they create comes from their own imagination," she said. "They feel empowered that they can create something on their own."

Even though she has a passion for young people, Melby's vision goes beyond just providing classes for kids.

She'd also like to offer "Messes & Masterpieces" courses for retired individuals or for people with special needs in the area.

"We want to reach out to everyone in the community," she said. "And we want to make it accessible to everyone."

Melby said the Board of Directors hopes to provide scholarships to "Messes & Masterpieces" classes for those who wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise.

Melby brings years of experience as an artist and a mom to the new business.

She has a bachelor of fine arts degree from the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul. She taught classes there for a while, before deciding to stay home with her young children.

Melby got the idea for "Messes & Masterpieces" after visiting hands-on art studios in the Twin Cities and Colorado.

She met Ralph Pullmann, a local entrepreneur, who encouraged her to pursue her dream of starting the new business. Melby also connected with Paul Mayer, president of the New Richmond Area Economic Development Corporation, who is trying to find the non-profit organization a retail space they can call home.

"We'd be able to offer so much more if we had our own space," she said. "We'd be able to offer birthday parties, and open workshops for families who just want to drop in and create something."

Painting and sculpture classes for kids ages 3-5 are planned in the coming months. "Invent & Build" classes for ages 6-8 are planned as well.

As an introductory offer, Melby is offering $10 off the class fee for the October and November/December sessions.

Call 246-7736 for more information, or contact Community Education at 243-7421 to register.

If an individual or business has materials they plan on discarding that would work for art projects, Melby said they can be donated to "Messes & Masterpieces."